The Coronavirus pandemic represents a physical/medical health threat for everyone, but it is the mental health effect that will become the greatest challenge for most of us because our emotional reactions can have an impact that lasts far longer than the pandemic itself.

We are dealing with two issues – the virus itself and the emotions it generates. Currently most of our attention is on the virus itself and we are not paying nearly enough attention to the emotional impact of the pandemic, which is extremely concerning as EVERYONE is having some emotional reaction to the pandemic. Fear, anxiety, stress, anger, irritability, emotional exhaustion and sadness are just some of the reactions which are to be expected because the threat is real and we are having to make significant lifestyle changes.

Although the emotions are valid, the reality is that if we do not manage these emotional reactions we can end up with severe mental illness. Already we are seeing higher rates of depression, anxiety, insomnia and complicated grief. More and more people are complaining that they cannot focus, concentrate, problem-solve and/or make decisions. There is long-term risk for alcohol abuse, self-medication and long-lasting ‘avoidance’ behaviour. Domestic abuse is on the increase, there is loss of productivity, more burnout and alarmingly the suicide numbers are escalating. Mental health professionals are expecting all of these negative effects to get worse.

The good news, however, is that we can manage emotional reactions in ourselves and in others.  We can protect our mental health and we can reduce mental illness.  It’s all about education, awareness and implementing effective strategies and techniques. This needs to happen at home and in the workplace, at both an individual and at an organizational level. There are 7 key elements to consider and I have the resources here on my website to get you started:

7 Key Elements to Consider

Free resources for you to read and download:  Articles    Posters & Worksheets
Products and services for your organisation (contact me for details):  Talks    Courses & Workshops   Online Assessments

My talk, Beating C-19 like a Champion, introduces the 7 elements and how to work effectively with the resources listed below.  Find out more

1. Recognise the Emotional Impact

The emotional impact of Coronavirus is huge. It’s important to be able to recognise the signs and symptoms of mental illness in yourself and others and know what to do and not to do about it.

Uncertainty:  Circles of Control    Circles of Control    Destiny: Action or Accident?    Change Your Thinking…. Change Your Life!    Living in the Now    Pareto's Principle - The 80/20 Rule

Fear & Anxiety:  Axe Anxiety    Circles of Control   Circles of Control

Depression:  Defeating Depression    Managing Depression

Grief and Bereavement:  Survive Your Sorrow    Grief & Bereavement - Help for the Helpers

Suicide:  Suicide Sensitivity    Suicide and Depression

Anger:  Anger Management: Taming the Tiger!    Taming the Tiger    Temper Your Temper: Reducing Anger in the Workplace    Iceberg model    Getting to Know your Anger

Stress:  Stressed To Kill    Stress Diagnostic Graph    Stress Management    Alcohol use

Trauma:  Tackle Trauma    Trauma Counselling Skills    Trauma    Signs & Symptoms of Trauma

Helplessness:  Circles of Control    Circles of Control    Living in the Now    Pareto's Principle - The 80/20 Rule

Hopelessness:  Destiny: Action or Accident?    Circles of Control    Circles of Control

Insomnia:  Insomnia

2. Manage the Change

The Coronavirus has brought about so much change that it is important for us to understand the psychological process we go through if we want to be able to adapt to it rather than resist it.

 The Challenge of Change    The Life Change Model    Responsible Risk Taking    Managing Change  The Change Wheel

3. Build Resilience

Knowing how to build our resilience in this Coronavirus era, is probably more important than it has ever been.

 Resilience: The Bounce Back Factor!    Resilience: The Bounce Back Factor!    Change Your Thinking…. Change Your Life!

4. Practice Self-Care

Understanding why and how we need to care for ourselves is vital if we are going to thrive in the Coronavirus era.

Self-care Scale    Spurn The Burn    The Wellbeing Wheel    Stop Sabotaging Your Dreams    Invest In Yourself    Love to Laugh, Laugh to Live    The Wood Cutter Stories    Mastering the Balancing Act    The Value of Vision Boards    Prepped for Play    The ‘Rocks, Pebbles and Sand’ Story    The Wellbeing Wheel    You-Q

5. Deal With Personality Differences

Different personalities are dealing with the Coronavirus era in different ways. Understanding yourself and others will go a long way to help us cope more effectively.

MBTI   Online MBTI    Raising an Introverted Child    Understanding Extraverts and Introverts    I'm not Crazy, I Just Don't think Like You!...    MBTI   MTQ (Mental Toughness Questionnaire)   Online MTQ    Getting Around To It – The Perversity of Procrastination  
 Integrating Integrity

6. Improve Communication

Being able to communicate well goes a long way towards building relationships and increasing productivity. Good communication also helps to prevent mental illness, tension and violence.

Coping with Conflict:
 Coping With Conflict    Creating Cooperation From Conflict

Constructive Criticism (Feedback):
 Face up to Feedback (Giving and Receiving Constructive Criticism)    Prepare to face up to Feedback

Counselling Skills (peer counselling / teachers/ HR):
 Basic Counselling Skills    Trauma Counselling Skills

Communication Styles:
 Attention on Assertiveness    Attention on Assertiveness    The Five Communication Styles

 The Art of Conversation    The Practice Art of Making Conversation    Mastering the Art of Conversation    Seven Common Conversation Errors… and How to Remedy Them    Time to Accept a Compliment    Phone Finesse – It’s Your Call    Phone Finesse    Body Language for Confidence    The Power of Listening    Vocal Impact    Using Body Language for Confidence

7. Handle Loss

In the Coronavirus era, loss includes the loss of loved ones, as well as the loss of health, lifestyle, finances, work and business. Understanding the process of loss and how to help yourself and others is critically important in preventing mental illness.

 Survive Your Sorrow

 Retrenchment: How to Survive it and come out on top

Nursing and other healthcare professions are considered high-stress occupations and a study published in the journal Curationis has found that there are five stress factors that override the rest. These include patient care, job demands, lack of support, staff problems, and having to work overtime. Nursing is inherently stressful because of the emergency nature of many cases attended to, the frequent need for overtime and night shift work, and (in some cases) less than ideal salaries. If you are a nurse facing stress, you may not be able to change the nature of your work, but studies show that there are many ways you can keep your ‘fight or flight response’ in check. One of these is cognitive behavioral therapy.

Why Should Stress be Taken Seriously in the Nursing Profession?

Patients depend on doctors and nurses to sustain their lives, so ensuring optimal health among healthcare professions is key. Professionals who are in a state of high stress or who have their ‘right or flight’ responses invoked can be more likely to commit errors or lose focus. Stress can lead to poor quality sleep, which in itself can hamper job performance. One 2019 Michigan State University study showed that issues such as a lack of support among nurses at work can lead to stress and loss of tempers, resulting in an increased risk of work injuries. Researchers recommend that hospitals implement strategies designed to improve the social environment for healthcare workers.

Psychological Therapy Reduces Stress in Nurses

study on 40 nurses found that nurses who underwent two hours of cognitive-behavioral stress management sessions per week, had a significant decrease in their stress loads. Researchers believe that CBT can play an important role in increasing nurse efficiency as well. They note that around 7.4% of nurses are absent from their workplace because of burnout or stress-related disability. They are 80% more likely to face burnout than workers in other professions. The aim of CBT is to show patients the extent to which the way they think, feel, and behave in particular situations are interrelated. For instance, feeling stressed about work can then affect they way they interact with other nurses or their patients. When receiving CBT, nurses may be asked by their psychologist to keep a journal listing down their reactions to different situations. They might then be asked to make a small behavioral change and to observe how this affects the way they feel about or perceive a situation.

What Should Relaxation Programs for Nurses Involve?

In times of stress, therapists may also recommend some type of relaxation program. A study undertaken at Ohio State University showed that nurses reduced stress levels by 40% by following a relaxation program at work. The program involved an eight-week mindfulness-based intervention that included mindfulness, gentle stretching, meditation, and music - all conducted at work. Researchers recommended that this holistic approach be employed in hospitals and clinics to reduce nurse burnout.

Time Management and Routines are Key

Using time to full avail is vital for nurses. The first step towards good time management is finding ways in which time may be wasted on a day to day basis. Just a few issues causing stress may be failing to follow a strict sleeping routine, sleep late and rushing to work the next day, and spending all one’s free time in a sedentary fashion. By establishing a routine, key activities such as exercise, sleep, and getting to work on time and in a relaxed state, can be achieved. Nurses can reduce travel stress, for instance, by leaving a little earlier from home everyday, enjoying an energizing daily walk before starting work. Sleep is especially important for nurses because when sleep quality is poor, it can result in impaired cognitive performance, a greater rate of errors, and a depressed/anxious/irritable mood.

Aromatherapy Massage for Nurses can Help

In addition to embracing holistic practises, nurses should also consider so-called ‘alternative therapies’ that have been proven to bust stress. One of these is aromatherapy massage with music. Research published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing found that this therapy was able to dramatically decrease stress in nurses working in an accident and emergency department.

Nurses and doctors have a high level of stress owing to various factors - including the life-or-death nature of their work. Hospitals should make nurses’ health a priority by offering relaxation programs and by working to improve the social environment. Finally, nurses can take part in anti-stress activities such as meditation, and establish a strict routine that enables them to make the most of their free time for exercise, rest, and social enjoyment.

This is a guest article by Lucy Wyndham

Debt causes worry and poor well-being for many consumers daily. In DebtSafe’s wellness survey, 71 percent of South Africans said that financial stress had influenced their overall health, and 87 percent of them felt tired, worried and depressed due to their debt. In fact, debt continues to be a leading trigger of depression in the country today. This feeling is not specific to South Africa either. Around the globe, consumer health is feeling the effects of rising debt balances. Anxiety levels are higher than before, and consumers are losing sleep over money-related issues, debt included. As debt levels climb higher, well-being continues to be impacted both emotionally and physically. With the links between the two being repeatedly proven, taking the time and responsibility to properly manage your debt means you can positively affect your psychological health and vice versa.

Formulate A Plan

When debt piles up, a common feeling is the loss of control. By formulating a debt plan, you are giving yourself some of that control back. While there is no guarantee that your repayment plan will work out exactly as planned, a plan will provide some direction, and if done correctly, anticipate the need for contingencies. Start by analysing your debts according to their interest rates, timeline and requirements. From this, you can determine the best repayment method for your situation like the debt snowball repayment method. 

A key part of your plan is carving out the money to repay these debts, which you can do by incorporating your budget and cost-cutting, or seeking ways to earn extra money like asking for a raise at work or exploring passive income streams. If you find yourself confused about any element in your debt repayment plan or simply wanting an expert opinion, feel free to speak to a financial or debt adviser, who can lay out your options for repayment and help you formulate the plan. Alternatively, there are a host of mobile personal finance apps available that can help with tasks, including debt ranking, budget creations and income investment.

Split Your Financial Rebuilding Into Manageable Blocks

One of the most common reasons people feel overwhelmed and fail to deal with their debt is that they attempt to tackle all of it at once. When viewed in its entirety, and especially if you have amassed sizeable debt, it can seem daunting and unbearable. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy, sadness, anxiety, and in some cases, depression. Once you have formulated a debt repayment plan, split it into small manageable sub-plans, either by goal achievement or timeline. This does two things: it acts as a checkpoint in your debt journey, and it also can act as motivation as you deal with your debt. As you progress in your debt journey, you can enjoy the feeling of accomplishment and getting close to your financial goals. If you have multiple debt accounts, you may want to use this as the marker - i.e. marking when you have repaid one credit card or loan. 

Create A Budget And Include Space For Personal Care

Having a budget helps you to identify where your money is going and plan for your income, which means better control of your money. In McKinsey’s recent survey of South African consumers, more than half are living paycheck to paycheck, while most of them are holding back on their spending. This makes sense, since 7 in 10 of them are most worried about losing their employment income and feeling unprepared for this eventuality. 

Creating a budget allows you to cut your unnecessary costs and provide for what is necessary and essential to your peace of mind. For example, establishing a rainy day fund can ease the worry of job loss or work as a fallback plan should you end up spending more than you planned to when drafting your budget. However, when drafting your budget, don’t get too carried away with the cost-minimising measures, and be sure to leave space each month for self-care, whether it is a monthly gym fee, yoga and meditation classes, or regular sessions with a stress counsellor. A better balanced mental state allows for a clearer mind and better decision making, including when it comes to your debt.

Share Your Worries With A Professional

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of sharing your fears and worries with someone. Voicing your troubles, including those about money, can help you feel relief and provide you with a sounding board for advice. You can choose to speak to a family member or friend, a certified therapist, or a financial counsellor. With a financial expert, they may be able to provide options for your specific financial situation, such as debt consolidation. A therapist, on the other hand, will help you navigate the emotional feelings you are experiencing as a result of your financial situation and how best to handle them. Once you are armed with the right tools to handle negative emotions, there is less chance of your judgement being clouded. 

Don’t forget the importance of a contingency fund. Knowing that you are protected in the event of a change can provide peace of mind and significantly reduce feelings of stress. The feeling of uncertainty can evoke negative emotions, including fear and anxiety, which in turn can trigger poor emotional, mental and physical well-being. With such strong links between personal finance and our well-being, taking care of debt means indirectly taking care of our health and happiness.

This is a guest article by Lucy Wyndham

Confidence is one of the largest dictators of our everyday behaviour, according to The National Academies Press: self-esteem has the power to uplift and sabotage. Esteem refers to our beliefs regarding our own personal worth and value, and describes the feelings we experience resulting from those beliefs. Esteem is a powerful motivational mechanism that influences how hard we strive to fulfil personal aspirations and to take care of ourselves. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, then, that self-esteem and wellness are closely linked. When one suffers, the other often follows suit. Whilst self-esteem is more complex than the two-dimensional high vs. low comparison we typically hear about, there are many ways we can go about boosting our own self-esteem, subsequently improving our overall well-being. And working out is a big one. 

Be Kind To Yourself

The challenge is that our self-esteem is fairly unstable to begin with. It consists of the ways we feel about ourselves overall, as well as how we value ourselves in very specific sectors of our lives, and is subject to frequent fluctuation. Because of this, the conversations we have with and about ourselves are very important. According to the Journal of Health Psychology, adopting the habit of using positive affirmations can be very beneficial, as long as we use them correctly. When our self-esteem is particularly low, declarations that are too contrary to how we’re currently feeling can actually make us feel worse. This can prove to be particularly accurate when it comes to exercise. It’s easy to fall short of workout goals, miss days at the gym, and get down on ourselves as a result. Preemptive praise for how hard we’re going to work to achieve something vs. all the goals we’re going to reach has the power to increase our motivation. Eliminating self-criticism is crucial, since it tends to show up most prevalently when we’re feeling low, and only serves to further damage our self-esteem.  

Hold Yourself Accountable

In addition to our inner monologues, the way we physically manifest our self-care can help to improve the way we see and value ourselves and our overall sense of well-being. This is where exercise comes in. The physical benefits of exercise are well known but, according to the Journal of World Psychiatry, it’s also effective in reducing depression, anxiety and general stress levels. Regular physical activity is equivalent to an investment in your mind and body, and such a healthy habit can promote your sense of self-worth while making you feel strong. Thinking about fitness centre memberships and fancy gym equipment can be intimidating, especially when you’re not feeling your best.

Luckily, when it comes to fitness, working out doesn’t have to equal going out. Working out at home has many benefits outside of the obvious convenience factor. You can save money, avoid gym germs, and work out in a private and comfortable environment. There are many advantages to incorporating equipment into your home workout to reap the mental health benefits of cardiovascular activity. Stationary bikes and ellipticals are good ways to get your heart rate pounding without taking up much space in your home, but there’s also plenty you can accomplish using simply your body and gravity. Exercise leads to an improved body image, and by reaching even your smallest workout goals, you’ll feel accomplished, which is an important facet of healthy self-esteem. 

Improving self-esteem does require a bit of work. It entails adopting and maintaining more careful emotional and physical habits. The way you feel about yourself lays the foundation for how you navigate life and the way you treat others, so putting in the work is a worthy investment.

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